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How to read organic packaged food labels

Did you know that this label doesn't neccessarily mean 100% organic?
Did you know that this label doesn't neccessarily mean 100% organic?
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Do you know how to read organic packaged food labels? Label designations can be a bit deceiving. That box you pulled off the supermarket shelf is labeled "organic". That doesn't mean it's 100% organic. In the minds of food manufacturers and the USDA, there are three kinds of organic. What are the three label designations for packaged organic food? What does each signify? How can you make sure your food is 100% organic? Learning how to read organic packaged food labels is a must for those concerned with their health. Don't be taken in by misleading labels.

Three kinds of organic labels:

The three kinds of organic packaged label designations are "100% Organic", "Organic" and made with "Organic Ingredients". Each designation has a required minimum percentage of organic ingredients. How can you be sure your food is 100% organic? The only way to be positive is by learning to read organic food labels. So, what is the difference between the three organic food label designations?

100% Organic

Just as you would think, a food package labeled 100% organic is made completely from organic ingredients. If you don't see the words 100% organic on the label, the food you have chosen has either partial organic ingredients or none at all. The other two organic label designations are somewhat deceptive. This is because the percentage of organic ingredients is not disclosed in the designation.


Packaged food that's labeled organic has the next highest organic ingredient percentage. In order to be labeled organic, packaged food products must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. You would think that products labeled organic would be 100% organic. Sadly, that is not the case. That just goes to show you how important it is to learn to read organic labels and know your percentages before shopping.

Made with organic ingredients

In my opinion, the wording on this organic label designation is perhaps the most deceptive. When reading a package stating "Made With Organic Ingredients", one might assume that all the ingredients are organic. Unfortunately, this is not true. Products labeled, "Made With Organic Ingredients" only have to be 70% organic.
That leaves a whopping 30% of room for all the bad stuff.

What's allowed

Unfortunately, the last two label designations leave room for either 5% or 30% of the bad stuff. What does this mean? Well, since either 5% or 30% of the ingredients do not have to be organic, this allows manufacturers or processors to include some items you may not associated with organic foods. The remaining percentage can include synthetic substances, such as used to produce crops. This may include pesticide ingredients. It can also include synthetic products used in livestock production, such as synthetic growth hormones and antibiotics.

Grow your own

That last paragraph was pretty scary, right? We don't know what might be included in that additional 5% or 30%. How can you be absolutely certain food is 100% organic? Don't trust the word organic unless it's accompanied by 100%. Learn to read organic food labels. Purchase only food labeled 100% organic. Grow your own fruits and vegetables to supplement store bought organic items. Knowing how to read organic food labels insures that all the food you put in your family's mouths is 100% organic.

Portions of this article were previously published by this author on a now closed Yahoo property.

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